A worried care home manager is calling on Rhondda Cynon Taf supermarkets to
lift restrictions on bulk buying for the sector to help struggling care
homes order vital food supplies during Covid-19.

Julie Ward, manager of The Laurels residential home in Aberdare, said care
workers were being forced to make multiple trips to local food stores –
putting themselves and residents at additional risk – because of supermarket
restrictions limiting online purchases to a maximum of 80 items and no more
than three of one product at a time.

This was not only increasing the risk of disease transmission for her staff
who had to shop within the community but was pushing up food bills at a time
when costs in the industry are soaring, placing many homes under the threat.

The home has now written to Asda appealing for flexibility on the rules for
social care providers to ease some of the sector’s current problems.

It comes after Care Forum Wales (CFW), which represents more than 450 care
homes, nursing homes and other health and social care providers across
Wales, warned the sector was being forced to the “back of the queue” for
virus testing and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and faced wholesale
closures without adequate rescue funding to mitigate the financial pressures
brought by additional staffing costs and falling occupancy rates.

“Normally, we have two Asda deliveries every week and we get as much of
everything as we want,” explained Julie, who has managed The Laurels for the
past 11 years.

“This usually includes 28 loaves of bread and 24 ‘six pint’ containers of
milk. With the rules limiting three of every product, we’re now way short.
We’ve also struggled to get delivery slots and our head cook has had to stay
up until past midnight to do the order.

“On top of that, we’re limited to 80 items. Our staff are having to pick
food up on their way into work which means we’re in and out of local shops.
It’s an extra risk but we don’t have any choice.

“Every time our care workers go out in to the community it puts them, their
families and our home at risk. We were one of the first care homes in the
area to lock down because we were trying to minimise the risk to our
residents. The more places you go the higher the risk of contracting

“They should lift the supermarket restrictions for care homes, it’s

The care home wrote to Asda to explain the difficulties it had faced on the
encouragement of Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW).

“We feel really disappointed to not have any acknowledgement or response at
all,” said Julie, who lives in Mountain Ash.

“We’re in the middle of a crisis, we have 19 residents here who need food
and they should accommodate ‘occupancy rates’ rather see us as one address.
Some homes are bigger than ours but the restrictions are exactly the same,
it’s ridiculous.

“Our costs have increased. Brand products are obviously more expensive and
we’re no longer able to buy in bulk. On top of everything else it’s not what
you want to be dealing with.”

Care homes across Wales are still struggling to secure adequate PPE while
bed occupancy rates are falling with care homes fearful of accepting new
patients from hospitals without sufficient virus testing in place.

Meanwhile, official death tolls have been criticised for only covering
people who die in hospital rather than including care home cases, concealing
the true scale of the problem.

Mario Kreft, chair of Care Forum Wales, said: “Care homes feel abandoned in
the face of this dreadful pandemic and their calls for help are simply being

“Across Wales, care homes are facing a mountain of challenges from securing
food supplies and managing staff absence through to increased costs and
shortfalls in PPE to protect their staff – the list is endless.

“It’s time the government listened and acted. The sector is already
chronically underfunded and cannot withstand further blows including falling
occupancy rates without threatening the whole infrastructure of social care
in Wales. These issues must be addressed with urgency and a proper funding
lifeline created.

“We are also calling on Asda to follow the lead of Tesco, Iceland and
Morrisons recognise the new social worker cards issued by Social Care Wales
to ensure they are treated like key workers when they go shopping.

Like many care homes, The Laurels has struggled to secure adequate PPE for
its 21 staff. Its usual supplier has been unable to obtain stock because it
has all been destined for the NHS.

Instead, the care home has relied on donations of gloves, masks and aprons
from local businesses including tattoo parlours, hairdressers and beauty
salons as well as purchasing some of its own on Amazon.

“At the moment, we don’t have an outbreak of the virus,” explained Julie.
I’m hoping that it stays that way.

“We are full and have a waiting list of people with whom the local authority
is looking for beds. If we did have an empty bed we would fill it fairly
quickly but we appreciate not every home is in this position.

“Our local authority provided us with 2,000 aprons and 2,000 gloves last
week but this is our normal order, this doesn’t take account of the
possibility of having any cases in the future.

“We’ve had a lot of kind people donating spare gloves, aprons and masks from
tattoo parlours, hairdressers and beauty salons. We’re very grateful because
it is a worry. We have a home full of staff who have to carry on as normal
and they all have families at home to protect. We’re trying to keep everyone

“If Covid-19 went through the home, then you’re looking at a requirement of
800 masks a week if you’re going to use them properly and change them 10
times in 24 hours. I dread to think what would happen in that situation, it
would be awful.

“The Welsh Government has promised £40m of emergency funding in Wales. It’s
not enough to safeguard the future of the sector and should only be seen as
a first instalment. The other problem is that the money is being handed over
to local councils to distribute and I doubt that all of it will reach the
front line.”